This Punch post isn’t about WWE wrestling. Nothing to do with star John Cena delivering an elevated chokeslam to Kane.

The polls on Saturday in NSW

But it’s about something that shares a lot of amateur theatrics and even biffs: local politics in this country.

A hilarious story did the rounds yesterday about Holroyd City Council, near Blacktown in Sydney’s west. Restauranteurs at the La Vita restaurant in Merrylands on Tuesday found themselves witness to one of the council area’s great all-time political battles.

Two ex-Liberal candidates got their biff on in a shameful fight over developer donations. There were shouts of” trespassing” and making “citizen’s arrests” when someone fell down the stairs, landing with a painful thud.

It’s just an example of how ridiculous local politics often is. It’s the arena where elected officials often find themselves obsessed with fringe issues, wasting their time in office banning Tim-Tams from council chambers, boycotting products in foreign countries and raising local newspaper hell about grafittied election signs.

The state of our councils is something worth debating. We’re governed by more than 500 councils according to figures from the Local Government Association. And New South Wales, which has 150 councils, is headed to the local government polls at the weekend.

Most voters don’t care about local government. Not unless there’s a big issue that directly affects them (or a family member in power). As The Sunday Telegraph wrote at the weekend, few of the 5 million New South Welshmen who will cast their ballots on Saturday have much of an idea what they’re voting for.

If they weren’t required to turn up, there’d be far fewer voters. Turnout at council polls is much lower in SA and WA, two states where the title of councillor is granted to those who can get the most neighbours, siblings, cousins, great aunties and second cousins to the polls. And those in power subsequently don’t have a strong mandate from the community - meaning a higher likelihood for fringe policies.

That’s a little sad. With big community investment and decent candidates, local councils can be incredibly effective in fixing community problems, from pot holes to keeping the local pool open.

I was genuinely impressed earlier this week by a flyer a local candidate had stuffed under my windscreen. The candidate brought me up to scratch with a local issue (parking at the train station) and laid out what he’d stand for. That was all I needed. He spared us the theatrics.

Maybe amongst the occasional talk about abolishing the states, it’s time we started contemplating merging more councils together, as happened with Brisbane City Council.

To set up “super councils”, at least across the suburbs of the big cities, with fewer positions for wannabe pollie types to abuse. The positions remaining would be consequential - and subsequently attract the attention of more voters as a consequence. Local politics doesn’t have to be the amateur league.

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34 comments

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    • iansand says:

      12:10pm | 07/09/12

      It’ very frustrating.  I am required to vote tomorrow based on a series of almost identical motherhood statements in election flyers.  Apparently parking is the big issue in North Sydney.  And a couple of people who want more art in the CBD (that might be a good reason to vote against them).  The candidates position statements on their nomination forms (available through the AEC site) are just as unilluminating.  The local rag has had almost no analysis of policies, or voting records of candidates coming back for another go.  I will be voting in the dark. 

      The only thing I am certain of is that I will not be voting for any group claiming affiliation with a political party.  Party politics has no place in local government.

    • The cynic says:

      12:34pm | 07/09/12

      “Not unless it’s there’s a big issue that directly affects them (or a family member in power)”.  Who the hell wrote this howler?  Not Daniel I trust !

    • The cynic says:

      12:35pm | 07/09/12

      “Not unless it’s there’s a big issue that directly affects them (or a family member in power)”.  Who the hell wrote this howler?  Not Daniel I trust !

    • Don says:

      02:18pm | 07/09/12

      Then please make sure that you vote “no” to the question of recognising local councils in the constitution in the upcoming referendum.

    • Daniel Piotrowski

      Daniel Piotrowski says:

      03:32pm | 07/09/12

      cynic - Sorry for botching the English language. sometimes it happens!

    • Inky says:

      06:12pm | 07/09/12

      The responsibility is not yours alone Dan wink Afterall, you have an editor, do you not?

    • St. Michael says:

      12:12pm | 07/09/12

      “To set up “super councils”, at least across the suburbs of the big cities, with fewer positions for wannabe pollie types to abuse. The positions remaining would be consequential - and subsequently attract the attention of more voters as a consequence. Local politics doesn’t have to be the amateur league.”

      As opposed to the “professional” league of State and Federal politics? Half the time the route to preselection for an MP’s seat is via the local council first, so much so that Labor or the Liberals often give tacit backing to someone running for Mayor or will look for potential candidates on local council.

      Keep them small, keep them weak.  We’ve already got two incompetent and unrepresentative levels of government, we don’t need a third.

    • Tubesteak says:

      03:19pm | 07/09/12

      You’re right about local councils being a breeding ground for higher up. I’ve got friends heavily involved in local politics and it really is depressing the amount of squabbling that goes on.

      Local councils should be responsible for rubbish collection, road maintenance and park maintenance only. All other powers should be taken away from them.

      We don’t need politics of the basket-weavers or mini-tyrants in our small communities.

    • Admiral Ackbar says:

      05:15pm | 07/09/12

      “All other powers should be taken away from them.”

      They don’t really have much power to begin with to be honest. Should their ability to process and make decisions on building and development applications, including subdivision and structure plan endorsement be taken away also? Because no one else has the capacity to do this, meaning developers would get away with whatever they want. There is a practical place for local government. although I’d agree that when it comes to politics, their usefulness is diminished by the power hungry with little man (or woman) syndrome.

    • ibast says:

      12:14pm | 07/09/12

      What’s the fine for not voting tomorrow?  I figure I’d pay $20 to not vote.

    • Michael S says:

      12:32pm | 07/09/12

      I think it’s $50. I don’t know if they actually enforce it.

    • Al says:

      12:33pm | 07/09/12

      Ibast - I just checked the AEC website and it is a $55 fine (which answers my own question previously if published).
      Of course there are plenty of ways to get an ‘exemption’.
      A medical issue is usualy good, something difficult to check like a migraine.
      I think I have gotten off previously with statements along the lines of ‘didn’t know when the election was or where to go to vote as it wasn’t advertised in my area’, which I could probably use again this time.

    • HC says:

      01:01pm | 07/09/12

      It’s getting to the point where I’d happily pay any fine to not vote in any election at any level smile

      Not only do I have a bad habit of living in safe seats where it doesn’t matter who I vote for because the incumbent always gets in, but with the exception of one or two people in this universe (apart from myself), there’s no one else I’d trust with my vote.

      What’s the point in engaging in a system that does its best to ignore my discontent?

    • iMitchy says:

      03:25pm | 07/09/12

      I would suggest that you go to the voting centre, get your name marked off then place your blank ballot in the box.

      Not only do you avoid a fine but if enough people did it, it would send a clear message that we are not interested in petty local politics and maybe non-compulsory voting would suit everyone better.

    • Karl says:

      04:43pm | 07/09/12

      since when have council elections been mandatory? guess it could be different on the mainland but they sure aren’t mandatory here, you get sent the ballot form in the mail and it’s up to you if you even submit a vote or not.
      on another note, i should point out that John Cena doesn’t do chokeslams, elevated or otherwise, as indicated at the start of the article, and that was John Cena and i’m pretty sure Randy Orton in the photo lol

    • Inky says:

      06:27pm | 07/09/12

      “Not only do I have a bad habit of living in safe seats where it doesn’t matter who I vote for because the incumbent always gets in”

      Isn’t this most seats? I thought we only had 20 or 30 or so seats that actually shifted nartionally? I know where my parents live is Labour, and where I live now is Liberal, although my current residence is nowhere near as safe as the one my parents do, which was safe enough to house a premier in the past (and until Slipper housed Mr Speaker)

      ” i should point out that John Cena doesn’t do chokeslams, elevated or otherwise”

      Vote for me and I promise you a future where John Cena does chokeslams. It’s about as likely as any other election promise.

    • Lachlan says:

      12:19pm | 07/09/12

      Why not just get rid of them. The State MP can appoint a General Manager of a Council and let the Bureaucrats handle it.
      The State politicians would have more benefit to the voters

    • Lachlan says:

      12:20pm | 07/09/12

      Why not just get rid of them. The State MP can appoint a General Manager of a Council and let the Bureaucrats handle it.
      The State politicians would have more benefit to the voters

    • Al says:

      12:25pm | 07/09/12

      While I know it is a requirement to show up at the polling place for state and federal elections is it actualy required for local?
      If so I must have a pile of failure to vote fines waiting as I have never voted in a local government election.
      I didn’t even know it was this saturday anyway, let alone where to go to vote, but I will be interstate anyway so there is my excuse.

    • andrew says:

      12:52pm | 07/09/12

      lucky i read this thread, or i would have been fined for not voting tomorrow. I had noticed an increase in the amount of electoral junk mail in my letterbox but hadn’t bothered to read any of it before transferring it to the recycle bin so i had no idea when the election was.Since i’ve already been fined $75 twice for not voting i’d rather keep the money this time.

    • Kerryn says:

      12:55pm | 07/09/12

      Erm, that’s not Kane, that’s Randy Orton…Kane wears a mask and has a degree of some sort with some University.

      And if anything, get rid of state government.  Local council here was fine until amalgamation.

    • Lachlan says:

      01:19pm | 07/09/12

      It’s not Orton, it’s Batista. And Kane’s finisher is the chokeslam not Cena.

    • PsychoHyena says:

      01:32pm | 07/09/12

      @Kerryn, while I agree that it’s Randy Orton going over the ropes, has Kane gone back to wearing his mask? Haven’t watched the WWE for a good few years.

    • Kerryn says:

      01:36pm | 07/09/12

      Bleh, Orton…Batista…both have tattoos all over their backs.

      I have tonnes of time for Kane though, look up Glen Jacobs on Youtube, he’s a very educated man.  Okay, I don’t entirely agree with his political views, but hey, and least he has them.

    • Karl says:

      04:50pm | 07/09/12

      yer Kane wears a mask, something that looks kinda like a welding mask that he takes off and underneath is a red molded one similar to what he wore before, and he’s just had to go into anger management lol

    • TimB says:

      03:17pm | 07/09/12

      Yep, count me among the many voters who has no clue who to vote for tomorrow. I barely know what any of my candidates stand for. Honestly tempted to just donkey vote.

      Look, it’s local government. Collect the bins, fix the roads, keep the facilities in decent nick. It’s not really hard.  Any local candidate trying to make stands about Israel or anything equally irrelevant to a local council will be ignored by me.

      Which reminds me of the pamplet for the Socialist Alliance I got in the mailbox the other day- Their general policy stance is ‘better services, for less cost to residents’, completely ignoring the fact that *someone* has got to pay for them somewhere. The biggest WTF was their proposal for a 3-month trial of free train travel.

      Can someone tell these morons that trains come under the control of the State Government and not Parammatta council? Terrifying.

    • Tim says:

      04:01pm | 07/09/12

      Just don’t vote Green if you want your kids to have a playing field to play footy (or, indeed, anything) on. Odd that they seem to hate the idea of the community trampling blades of grass. (At least, that’s their stance in Balmain)

    • Laura says:

      04:09pm | 07/09/12

      I can only assume that the above comments are all made by city dwellers. Local councils in rural areas are extremely important. With a higher number of people in the city areas, most state policies and money would go to infrastructure in the city. While that sounds fair on the most parts, roads need to be maintained in the regional areas so that the farms that provide food can continue to operate, the workers who live in regional areas need infrastructure such as parks and libraries.

      Melbourne City Council makes in one days parking revenue, the annual budget of alot of rural councils.

      VicRoads which is a state authority have difficulty maintaining their own highways little than giving them all of the rural roads as well.

      Local Councils play a huge advocacy roll, petitioning for federal and state grants in order to build or maintain existing infrastructure such as sporting grounds, tourist sites and local halls. Not to mention state and federal policies such as the Murray Darling plan.

      You will find Local Councils are also great at times of need agter things such as the floods and fires co-ordinating the recover after the events.
      Aged care and childcare services are also something that people forget councils do well.

      One thing I will say is that councillors aren’t that important overall it is the staff at the council that knows what goes on. Councillors come in with there one platform (such as parking) or idea for the monument that they want to build without realising all of the issues and policies that they need to contribute too. Sometimes thay have to make decisions that the community won’t like so they shy away from it as they know they won’t get elected next time round.

    • andrew says:

      04:25pm | 07/09/12

      and while we are at it, why do we have to go and vote on different days for local and government elections? i don’t know off the top of my head how often each is held but surely it would make more sense and be less annoying to the general-only-going-to-the-polling-booth-so-i-don’t-get-a-fine voter i.e most of us if we only had to turn up once every couple of years.

    • Andrew says:

      04:46pm | 07/09/12

      There’s nothing amateur about WWE.

    • Popdart says:

      04:47pm | 07/09/12

      Super councils are not really the way to go. In my own local super council up in Queensland, our Mayor has been referred to the Crime and Misconduct Commission three times in his tenure due to improper dealings with property developers. Local government, in my experience, is primarily an exercise in cronyism and nepotism.

    • andye says:

      06:09pm | 07/09/12

      I think we should fire them all out of a cannon and then the closest one to…

      actually, no, that will do. just the cannon part.

    • stephen says:

      07:49pm | 07/09/12

      ...and end up in Julia’s sand-pit, where sandcastles in the sky is like pie in the eye.

      I really thing the Greens are going to upset any local elections, and call their own, and soon.

    • john says:

      10:20pm | 29/10/12

      3 things the council has done for me:
      - fined me for parking in my own street outside my own house
      - left my bins upturned half way down the street each morning
      - fined me for not voting for them
      They are the most petty crumbs of people you’ll ever meet.

 

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